Lol Coxhill in a skip

Lol Coxhill in a skip
Lol Coxhill in a skip – Event conceived and produced by Simon Thackray.
Copyright © Simon Thackray. All rights reserved. Photo © Tony Bartholomew.

Just skip it

Alfred Hickling, The Guardian – Wednesday October 20, 2004


Certain men are notorious for what they get up to in their sheds. Simon Thackray runs an arts centre in his. For the past 20 years, The Shed, near the market town of Malton, has been responsible for some of the smallest and most inspired art events in the country. Thackray has devised shows involving knitting, bingo and an Elvis impersonators’ bus tour. But his latest scheme is rubbish.

On November 2, the veteran jazz saxophonist Lol Coxhill will undertake a whirlwind tour of North Yorkshire market towns. In a skip. The itinerary begins in the village of Brawby at 10.30am and ends in Helmsley market square at half past four, by which time Coxhill stands in serious danger of being buried under a jumble of rubble and old mattresses.

So what is the point of persuading the renowned leader of the Dedication Orchestra, famed for his prowess at free improvisation, to stand in a skip?

“I get asked that quite a lot,” says Thackray. “One woman said, ‘Is it for the acoustics?'”

In fact, the concept of performing in a skip is – like all Thackray’s projects – a clever combination of artistic enterprise and canny marketing. “The audience for avant-garde music is tiny,” he says. “If I announce that a great jazz improviser is going to perform in Malton for free, who would take any notice? But if he stands in a skip, it becomes a media event.”

Thackray has a point. Last year he persuaded the trombonist Alan Tomlinson to entertain the queue for a rural fish and chip van. The event became an item on the Richard and Judy show – “so I reckon the audience for free improvised jazz was 1.9m that particular evening”.

Yet Thackray resists the temptation to expand. “You could say I’m ever so slightly lacking in ambition,” he says. “After 12 years of promoting gigs in village halls, I thought the time had come to downsize. And what could make a smaller venue than a skip? Except a mini-skip, perhaps.”

Lol Coxhill: 19 September 1932 – 10 July 2012.

Obituary in the Guardian
Obituary in Jazzwise Magazine.

The Shed at 20 on Jazz on 3

John Walpole and Gail Brand - Shed Builder - The Shed at 20 on BBC Radio 3